Albert the Great on Asking for Resurrection

In his comments on the raising of Lazarus in John 11, Albert the Great states that it is perfect faith which asks God for the dead to be raised. This perfect faith is faith in Jesus Christ, the cause of our resurrection by virtue of his own. Jesus instructs Martha in such faith by his divine instruction, drawing out her consent. To such faith, nothing, not even the raising of the dead, is impossible.

Here Albert comments on Jesus’ conversation with Martha in vv.25-27: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’”

Here [Jesus] touches upon a faith perfect in obtaining that for which one asks. An encouragement to such faith is first given, and then perfect faith is described.

Therefore, in the first place he says four things: in the first of these, the perfect cause of the resurrection and life is said to be in Christ; in the second, this to the believer, the possibility to obtaining the resurrection of the dead by asking is shown; in the third, the reward of such faith is signified; in the fourth, the consent of Martha to such faith is sought.

Therefore, Jesus says, “I am,” by way of cause, “the resurrection and the life,” that is, I am the cause of resurrection and life. 1 Thess 4:[14],1 “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” For he is therefore called “the firstborn from the dead,” since his resurrection is believed in faith, he is the cause of the resurrection of the dead, as Augustine states.2 Rev 1:5, “the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

“And everyone who lives,” etc.

Here he touches on the reward of her faith: for since it is now perfect, she lives. Hab 2:4, “My righteous will live by their faith.”

“And believes in me,” that is, by believing draws toward me [tendit in me], “will not die in eternity [or “forever,” in aeternum, here and following],” for although one dies bodily in time [or “for a time,” ad tempus], nevertheless they do not die so as to die in eternity. For the damned die in this way in eternity, as to always die. John 8:52, “Whoever keeps my word will not taste death in eternity.” John 3:[16],3 “that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Hos 8:14 [Vulg.], “From the hand of death I will free him, from death I will redeem them.”

“Do you believe this?”

He elicits consent to this perfect faith, to whose asking nothing is impossible. Mark 9:[23],4 “All things can be done for the one who believes.” Matt 17:[20],5 “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

“She said to him, ‘Yes,’” etc.

Here she now sufficiently presents consent in perfect faith by means of an elevated instruction.

“Yes, Lord.” Matt 15:28, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And she explains this faith, saying, “I believe,” firmly believing and simply confessing, “that you are,” because you hide in human nature, “Christ,” anointed with the anointing of deity, “the Son of God,” born of the Father before all ages, “who,” born from a woman, the Virgin, came under the law, “came” through the assumption of flesh “into this” visible “world.” And this is perfect faith in relation to this article; so, he does not further instruct her in the faith. Matt 16:16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And therefore, as to Peter the keys were given upon this confession, against which the gates of hell will not prevail, so the doors of death, which held the dead, could do nothing about this faith, but gave up the dead which it had taken in. Ps 107:16-17 [Vulg. 106:15-16], “For he shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron. He brought them out from their sinful ways.”

D. Alberti Magni Opera Omnia, vol. 24, In evangelium secundum Joannem, ed. Borgnet (Paris: Vivès, 1899), 447-48

1 The Borgnet edition reads I Thessal. IV, 13. We still await a critical edition of Super Iohannem.

2 I have not yet been able to identify the precise text of Augustine to which Albert might be referring.

3 The Borgnet edition reads Joan. III, 13.

4 The Borgnet edition reads Marc. IX, 22.

5 The Borgnet edition reads Matth. XVII, 19.

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A Christology of Love

And for love he made mankind, and for the same love himselfe wolde become man.
— Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love 57

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-born Son.
— John 3:16

[F]or everything that has been done through Christ has been done for our sake.
— Martin Luther, Four Sermons on the Resurrection of the Dead (LW58: 150)

[I]t pleased God to come to aid the lost world, that is, by the death of his Son, in which he allures us to love of God and calls us away from the love of the world.
— Sebastian Meyer, In utramque D. Pauli epistolam ad Corinthios commentarii (Frankfurt: Petrus Brubacchius, 1546), fol. 8r

In these four phrases are the seeds of a whole Christology written around the theme of love.

 

Ephesians 1:3-14 and Exodus

I just ran across this line from N.T. Wright, which agrees with what I have long thought: “Ephesians 1.3-14 is, among other things, a retelling of the exodus story” (The Resurrection of the Son of God, p.236).

The Word the Spirit Gives

Just as we read the Scripture figurally, the Spirit reads us figurally. That is to say, just as we read Scripture in light of the full revelation of divine truth in Jesus Christ, the Spirit reads us in light of our full and true reality ‘in Christ’ as well. This, however, is the important difference: the Spirit reads our lives and identities infallibly, in light of the divine Truth whose Spirit he is. The Spirit’s reading of our lives peels back layers of self-deception, conscious or otherwise; his word pierces through to the heart of what matters. This piercing truth, the Spirit’s reading of our lives, our identities and our purpose, is given to us in Spirit-given words, or better, in the Word the Spirit gives.

In 1 Cor. 12:8, Paul speaks of “a word of wisdom (λόγος σοφίας)” and “a word of knowledge (λόγος γνώσεως)” given by the Spirit. The “word of wisdom” generally reveals something of God’s purpose for a particular human life or church community, whereas the “word of knowledge” reveals something particular about a person or community, a significant fact the Spirit uses to convict or encourage. When the Spirit gives these “to one” or “to another,” in order for them to speak this word to a third, he is revealing — drawing back the veil on something hidden. It is a word whose significance is sometimes known only to God and the third person or community; the person delivering the word is a mere messenger.

The Spirit casts this light on our lives or the life of the Church (by means of this charismatic gift) by receiving a word from Christ and delivering it to us. As Jesus himself tells us, the Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The word the Spirit gives is from the Word himself. This is seen on a grand scale in the biblical “words” delivered to the seven churches of Revelation from Christ when John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (1:10; 2:1-3:22). But it is also seen in each of our lives as the Spirit gives, “to one” or “to another,” words that reveal how we really stand ‘in Christ’ — words that lay us breathtakingly bare to ourselves, and reduce us to tears of joy, or of sorrow, before him.

Bugenhagen’s Preface to His 1 Corinthians Commentary

Johann Bugenhagen (1485-1558), an early Lutheran pastor and theologian, published a commentary on 1 Corinthians in 1530. Interestingly, it deals only with the first four chapters–and these extensively. His treatment spans some 400 pages, and it reads like a series of classroom lectures, passionately given and full of biblical quotation and contemporary polemic. In fact, this is what Bugenhagen tells us in the preface: his commentary is part of the academic effort at reform, a striving for the souls of his students. This is my translation of the opening paragraph:

It is now two years since the plague advanced on our city.1 At that time our school migrated elsewhere, but Doctor Martin Luther and I remained here, in accordance with the office of sacred preaching committed to us. Almost sixty students (scholastici auditores) also remained, as meanwhile they heard Luther preaching and lecturing on sacred things, to whom I also was able to be a comfort against all scandal rising against the saving teaching of Christ. I began, in the course of my ordinary lecturing, to treat the first letter written by Saint Paul to the Corinthians, but more fully the first four chapters regarding the wisdom and justice of God against the wisdom and justice of the world, and the authority of Holy Scripture and apostolic teaching in the apostolic Church of Christ. (Commentarius in quatuor capita prioris epistolae ad Corinthios [Wittenberg, 1530], fol. 2r)

It might be that, in light of the spreading plague, Bugenhagen delivered his lectures, so to speak, in this written form rather than orally. (This is how Jänckens understood it in 1757.) Whatever the case, they certainly read like oral deliverances, full of address to the reader or listener, full of biblical quotations that appear and reappear, as if from memory, and full of passionate pastoral concern for the consciences of his students against what he perceived as the perversions of Roman Catholicism.

It is his choice of 1 Corinthians 1-4 that I find especially interesting (not least because I just completed a PhD thesis on the history of these chapters’ interpretation). Traditionally, these four chapters were regarded as dealing with teaching in the Church, and this is just what Bugenhagen picks up: a lecture series on this section is ideal for the reform effort because they treat the wisdom of God, the ‘authority of Holy Scripture’ and ‘apostolic teaching.’ A church that needs to rediscover and re-establish how it is to teach Christian truth should turn to 1 Corinthians 1-4 to find how to do so.

The black death came to Wittenberg on August 2, 1527 (see Luther’s Works 43: 115-16).

Teaching on Romans 8:14-19

This is a short clip from my recent class working verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter through Paul’s letter to the Romans. The video deals with Romans 8:14-19 (my translation):

14 For such as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons and daughters of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery again for fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption in whom we cry, ‘Abba Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself witnesses together with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 And if children, we are also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if we actually suffer together that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I count it that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy of the glory coming to be revealed in us. 19 For the urgent expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons and daughters of God.


My thanks to Bethel Gospel Tabernacle for hosting, Soundbox Productions for audio equipment and Danny Burnett for recording and editing.